NEW ORLEANS — The Nets put together their best defensive performance of the young season Wednesday in Cleveland, holding the Cavaliers to 86 points. But tackling the Pelicans and All-Star center Anthony Davis Friday night at Smoothie King Center figured to be a whole different ballgame. The Pelicans came in as the NBA’s highest scoring team at 132.0 points per game and also were leading the league with a plus-15.3 point differential.
Putting everything into perspective when asked about the state of the Nets’ defense, veteran center Ed Davis said how they played against the Pelicans would be the true measuring stick. “[They’re] going to be a great test,” Davis said. “Get back to me after the game. Not to take anything away from Cleveland, but I don’t think they’re a top-five team in the East. It was a good win for us, but we’re not overly excited. We came in expecting to win. We took care of business, but [New Orleans] is definitely one of those games where we’ll really see where we’re at on the offensive end and the defensive end, and as a team.”
Since leaving Portland to sign with the Nets as a free agent, Davis has formed an effective combination at center, backing up second-year man Jarrett Allen. He’s averaging a team-best 8.8 rebounds and has helped Allen lift his rebounding to 8.0 per game and improve his defense around the rim.
“I love having Ed Davis,” Allen said. “I like competing with him. I want to get more rebounds than him because he’s a skilled rebounder. He helps push me along. He’s like, ‘Come on, JA, get some more rebounds.’ It’s almost like a game for me with the rebounding now. I’m always looking for little ways I can get more rebounds. He’s the perfect guy to watch.”
Davis has taken on the role of mentor for Allen, sharing the tricks of the trade he has learned across nine NBA seasons, and he appreciates Allen’s thirst for knowledge. “When I give him advice, it’s different than coming from these coaches because most of these coaches are not playing in the game and haven’t been in these situations,” Davis said. “He appreciates that instead of hearing the cliché things the coaches say, getting the real feel and the real experience from me, he can relate to it more than coming from a coach or a point guard who is not in those situations.”
The Nets’ Davis knew better than to imagine he and Allen could contain the Pelican’s Davis, who came in averaging 30.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.33 blocks per game. In addition, the Nets had to contend with power forward Nikola Mirotic, who was averaging 28.0 points per game and shooting 47.8 percent from three-point range.
“He’s a top power forward in the game,” Ed Davis said of his Pelicans counterpart. “He’s a hell of a player. He can shoot it, put it on the floor. He can go left, he can go right. They run a lot of stuff through him. He’s going to get his.
“You’re not going to shut him down. You just want to make it as difficult as possible. I played against him a lot in the West and in the playoffs last year. He’s one of the top five players in the world.”
The Nets’ Davis hasn’t been known as a prolific scorer off the bench, but he is averaging 6.8 points and shooting 64.7 percent from the field, underlining his efficiency at both ends. “I definitely like this system,” Ed Davis said. “I get a lot of easy baskets from drop-offs or putbacks or just the guards being aggressive.”